Member Story: iDE’s Sama Sama Project Pivots to Help Northern Ghana Fight COVID-19

Posted September 30th 2020

Before COVID-19 iDE’s award-winning social enterprise, Sama Sama, was known for selling affordable, durable toilets to households in northern Ghana, where disease related to poor sanitation is a major issue. When COVID-19 became a threat to the communities in which Sama Sama operates, the company knew they needed to respond. Sama Sama recognized that their target markets and customer base are the most likely to be unable to access, afford or adopt the behaviours and equipment necessary to prevent or limit COVID-19. This recognition sparked the initial deployment, since March 2020, of twenty-three of one hundred free public handwashing stations in high traffic areas in Northern Ghana.

“The objective is very simple: provide a way for people to wash their hands for free and use soap in a safe place and also get the benefit of information related to COVID” says Osei Agyeman-Buahin, Managing Director of Sama Sama.

The handwashing stations have been deployed in high-traffic areas like markets and bus stations. Each handwashing station is comprised of one 650-liter tank with taps operated by foot pumps, soap and safe drainage. Sama Sama sales agents at each station ensure regular cleaning and disinfecting of the location, share proper handwashing techniques and distribute COVID-19 prevention leaflets and stickers. Water and other consumables are replenished daily.

“The normal access to handwashing would have been to either buy sachet water (water packaged in a sealed plastic bag) to wash your hands or to go back home. The problem with buying sachet water is that the used sachet becomes an environmental hazard….People are genuinely happy that these stations are being set up…we underestimated the demand for the handwashing stations,” reports Agyeman-Buahin. The stations have been so accepted by the local communities that some pedicab drivers require passengers to wash their hands before getting into their vehicles.

With funding from Global Affairs Canada, donors, and MCIC’s Manitoba Government Matching Grant Program, Sama Sama is also working with radio stations across northern Ghana to complement its on-the-ground efforts with engaging science-based public service announcements designed to inform people about how best to prevent COVID-19.

The remaining public handwashing stations are set to be deployed over the next 3 – 6 months. There are also plans to expand the radio campaigns in parallel. iDE’s Program Director, Tiffany Koberstein shared that the stations “have generated excitement in communities and in some cases the local government has wanted to be part of commissioning the new stations.” Some districts are also replicating iDE’s public handwashing stations.

“It really focuses everybody on what matters most. And what matters most is the people whose lives we are trying to change,” shares Agyeman-Buahin.

About iDE Canada

iDE Canada creates income and livelihood opportunities in developing countries around the world. We invest in local entrepreneurship, building businesses with a focus on agriculture and sanitation. With access to the right products, services and advice, farmers can transform their small farms into small businesses. With access to research and development, sanitation business owners can produce the life-saving products their customers want.

Image caption: Figure 1 Station demonstration by a Municipal Council Executive representative